Direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies grew tremendously during the pandemic, but now, stiffer competition means companies need to get more creative. Ashwinn Krishnaswamy is one of the people helping consumer brands rethink their ecommerce strategies.
Ashwinn is the founder of Forge, a New York branding and digital strategy agency. He also launched Oklahoma Smokes, a nicotine-free and tobacco-free cigarette company, and posts regularly about DTC trends and case studies on TikTok.
Ashwinn shared his thoughts on what new companies can do to position themselves against competition in 2023.
Distribution is key
Ashwinn says he often encourages founders to think backwards. Instead of trying to start a company from a product idea, he advises founders back into an idea based on communities or distributors they already have access to. “Distribution is the kind of true make-or-break for the business. It's not just the idea and the brand,” Ashwinn says.
His prediction for this year? “I think we’re going to see smarter ways of thinking about customer acquisition, whether that's community building or thinking outside the scope of paid acquisition to drive sales.”
Going omnichannel has its challenges
Many DTC brands are turning to retail for customer acquisition, but Ashwinn warns that it won’t solve your distribution problems. “It opens up a market, but you're going to have a different set of problems that are equally challenging,” says Ashwinn. “You get paid on net-90 terms. You have to deal with like four different operators, your distributor, your retailer, your sales reps, your merchandisers. Once you're in stores, it's about getting on shelves and making sure inventory turns.”
The logistics can be a nightmare, so DTC brands probably shouldn’t jump into an omnichannel approach too fast. However, when done well with a strategy, new channels can open up new opportunities for brands.
You can’t never go too niche
Ashwinn says he almost never meets founders with a brand that is too specific. Narrowing down your customers can actually help you market to them better, and give your brand wider appeal. “If you choose a niche that seems really specific, you can actually pull a market towards that, rather than saying, ‘Hey, we're for everyone,’” he says.
Ashwinn used the example of a company that makes gloves for backcountry skiers. Because many skiers aspire to that elite level, they might be more inclined to buy those specialized gloves, rather than a generic glove for all levels.
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Content creation is all about experimentation
If you want to start experimenting with organic marketing, Ashwinn advises founders to take the pressure off. You don’t need to go viral with every TikTok video. It’s ok if your video isn’t perfect or professionally edited.
“I think the content that performs well on TikTok doesn't have to be ridiculously edited if you just have something good and interesting to say or show off,” Ashwinn says, citing videos that offer the behind-the-scenes of packing orders or entrepreneurs telling the founding story.
The important thing is to start. Once you’ve posted a few videos, you can get a better idea of what resonates with your audience and start getting more ideas from the comments and engagement.
To learn more about Ashwinn’s predictions for DTC brands in 2023, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.